Billions of particles in human cardiac muscle

The hearts of young city dwellers contain billions of microscopic toxic particles from air pollution.

Even in the youngest children, as young as three years old, one may find damaged muscle cells, including heart cells. Studies suggest that iron-rich nanoparticles released by vehicles and industrial plants may be a link between the polluted air and heart diseases.

The presence of the nanoparticles may constitute a serious problem. Over 90 per cent of world’s population lives in continuous contact with air containing toxins. The World Health Organization has recently classified the problem as a global issue and defined it as “public health emergency”.

Prof. Barbara Maher, of Lancaster University, studying the presence of nanoparticles in living organisms, assesses that these most recent findings are too important to be ignored. In 2016 Maher and hear co-researchers found the nanoparticles in human brains and damage caused by those particles were similar to those resulting from the Alzheimer’s disease.

Prof. Maher finds this threat the most harmful to the youngest patients. “We have evidence revealing a very early stage of damage to both hearts and brains. (…) The particles may reach both these body organs and result in pathological damage,” stressed Maher.

The negative impact of air pollution on the entire human body has been revealed in a 2018 study, in which air pollution particles were found in placentas of women who had given birth.

In a peer reviewed paper published in the Environmental Research journal, scientists analysed heart tissue taken from 63 young people who had died in road accidents, but had not suffered chest trauma. They all had lived in Mexico City, where air pollution is heavy.

The researchers found 2 to 22 billion particles per gram of dried tissue. The bodies of Mexico City residents contained 2 to 10 times more particles than the bodies of nine people from the control group – dwellers of less polluted locations.

Thus, the research team estimates that “exposure to nanoparticles appears to be directly related with early and significant cardiac damage”.